Declan Patrick McManus changed his name a few years ago.
Or rather, his manager, Jake Riviera, did. The name Jake chose was Elvis Costello.
Declan/Elvis thought Jake was crazy.
Jake wasn't so crazy as Elvis Costello and the Attractions proved at the Dane County Coliseum Saturday night in their first Madison appearance in five years.
Elvis — resplendent in red shoes and a matching red shirt — was seven albums richer than the last time he played here at the Orpheum Theater in 1978.
He's covered more ground more successfully than any of his contemporaries since his late seventies appearance as rock's latest angry young man. The Elvis Costello of today, though — complete with a four man horn section in Hawaiian print shirts — has more in common with Tony Bennett and other ballad/torch singers than he does with rock 'n' roll.
He also simply writes songs better than anyone else, plays his own guitar better than a lot of guitar heroes and sings in a league all his own.
Elvis Costello is so good it's almost too much.
He has a lot of help from his friends, of course. The Attractions — Steve Nieve, keyboards, Bruce Thomas, bass and Pete Thomas, percussion — are the best rock band since The Band, those five Canadians who used to make Bob Dylan sound like a million dollars.
Saturday night's performance started right on time, went for 1½-hours solid and then into two 10-minute encores. No one could say they didn't get their money's worth.
The lighting and set were absolutely perfect — stark, simple and always effective.
Even the sound mix was on most of the time with the exception of a couple of songs in the middle where the horns and the Attractions just about drowned Elvis out.
But, Elvis, alone in the spotlight, crooning for all he's worth, was the real show. Who else could get away with that in this rock 'n' roll world?
New tunes from his latest and ninth LP, Punch The Clock, were mixed with a goodly amount of Imperial Bedroom, the album many consider his masterpiece. Old songs such as "The Mystery Dance," "Pump It Up," "Alison" and "Watching The Detectives," got a good rise out of the audience every time.
And, the new tunes flowed like wine. I don't know the titles unless I guess but that doesn't matter because they were all superb.
The once surly Elvis — back in his angry young man days — talked a lot too, recalling his first Madison appearance at Bunky's in 1977 and introducing song after song.
He ended the show, before the encores, with "Clowntime Is Over" and a little red shoe shuffle, highlighting a talent so big it just had to burst through.
It brought to mind one more crazy thing Jake did to Elvis back in 1977.
On Elvis's first LP the line "Elvis Is King" runs endlessly through the graphics on the cover. It may have been pretentious then, but it sure rings true now.